Artistry adorns luxury liquor package

Limited-edition premium bourbon from Jim Beam looks regal in a package loaded with special touches, including the most delicate of hand-applied decals.

For its Distillers’ Masterpiece specialty bourbon, Jim Beam Brands of Clermont, KY, wanted to develop the Mona Lisa of package design: sophisticated, elegant and impressive. A fine French decanter with intricate decals became the perfect frame for the company’s Masterpiece.

The design, which employed the use of many hand-crafted components, impressed Jim Beam and the bourbon drinkers to whom it sells. It also earned converter Custom Deco (Toledo, OH) a Discovery Award from the Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorators (Washington, DC).

The award-winning design for packaging the 18-year-old bourbon was created by Bagby and Co. (Chicago, IL). “The intent was to create a presentation that would convey the specialty of the bourbon and the process used to achieve the final product,” says Steve Wincek, purchasing manager at Jim Beam. Distillers’ Masterpiece bourbon is “finished” in barrels used to produce cognac, giving it a unique flavor, and Jim Beam wanted its packaging to be equally tasteful.

From hundreds of samples, Jim Beam selected a glass bottle manufactured in France and distributed in the U.S. by Demptos Glass (Louisville, KY). Demptos contracts Custom Deco to apply the water-slide decals that give the bottle its acid-etched effect. Custom Deco prints the decals flat on a sheet of wax-based paper, using heavy metal-free ceramic enamel. Two leaf-patterned decals are applied to the front and back of the bottle, fanning around the shoulders. On the front of the bottle, near the bottom, another decal identifies the brand name of the product, as well as the two craftsmen who developed the distinctive liquor.

All decals are hand-applied at Custom Deco’s Orlando plant, a process that requires both skill and precision to attain consistency on each bottle. After the decals are applied, Custom Deco fires the piece to seal the enamel, then ships the bottles to Jim Beam.

The bottle also has a pressure-sensitive neck label from Cameo Crafts (Saint Laurent, Quebec, Canada). Each label is embossed with the number 18 to denote the age of the bourbon. The 4-mil, bright silver paper facestock is offset-printed in three colors, then embossed, varnished and die-cut in-line.

According to Wincek, the copper color prominent on the neck label establishes a connection with old-fashioned copper stills. And the oak leaf pattern of the decals on the bottle’s shoulders connote the oak barrels in which the bourbon is aged, These details helped generate “the image of a unique and exclusive product,” says Wincek.

Finishing touches

Sealed with a traditional cork, the bottle employs a decorated wooden top cork to complete its look. “The special shape of the tapered oval wood top cork is achieved by hand-turning on a lathe,” Wincek says. To coordinate with other packaging components, the wood is stained black. The cast metal plate on top of the wood is copper-plated, polished and lacquered for an antique-style appearance. Each wood stopper’s top plate is engraved with a sequential bottling number, so no two are alike. The wood top and cork are sourced from a Portuguese supplier by way of Saxco Intl. (Horsham, PA). Filling, corking, labeling and packing of the bourbon are all performed manually at Jim Beam’s Clermont, KY, facility.

Distillers’ Masterpiece is presented in an octagonal-shaped gift carton made of 80-pt chipboard and covered with an embossed paper that simulates leather. Inside, the carton is lined with what Wincek calls “hazed silver foil” that is offset-printed with a special copper ink to match the copper-colored neck label. Top and bottom “inserts” of black molded styrene complete the package. Paradise Promotional Packaging (Buffalo, NY) produces the gift carton.

“Acceptance and response to the product has met or exceeded all expectations, including sales forecasts.” Wincek says. The packaging has helped Jim Beam establish that Distillers’ Masterpiece could be “as elegant and sophisticated and premium as the finest imported spirits,” he says.

On the market since July 1999, Distillers’ Masterpiece retails for $250/bottle. Only 6길 bottles of the 99-proof bourbon will be produced through the end of 2000.

Awarded annually in recognition of outstanding decorated ceramic and glassware design and technical achievement, the 1999 Discovery Awards featured 418 entries in 17 design and 15 technical categories. The competition was held Sept. 26-29, 1999.

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